How to balance a busy life

I'm currently on my fifth week of working full time while also going to grad school full time. I also generally volunteer monthly, exercise daily, and enjoy having a social life on weekends. I may sound like an obnoxious overachiever and maybe it's because I am (screw you, whatever), but personally, I've just always felt eager to experience as much as possible.

Nevertheless, it gets exhausting. This past month has been a huge adjustment, even for me, but I think I'm finally beginning to learn how to balance it all without angrily texting my boyfriend every time something goes wrong (sorryloveyouthanks!). Anyway, here are my five tips to staying sane while busy.

Wake up earlier

And if you're not a morning person, all the better. I have never enjoyed being spoken to within the first hour of waking. I need coffee, breakfast, and most importantly, some me time, before any interaction. When I'm really under a time crunch, these routines hold even more importance. So, while I could take the train to work and sleep in until 30 minutes before I need to be at my desk, I instead choose to wake up around 75-90 minutes ahead of time (clothes and bag laid out the night prior) and walk the two miles to work. By the time I arrive, I feel energized rather than frantic, which is better for both me and anyone who needs to engage with me on a regular basis.

Prioritize correctly

Do you sit down at your desk and immediately start checking email? It's a hard habit to break and seems like the intuitive way to get your day started, but it can also immediately set you in a reactive mindset. Instead, keep a running to-do list with items listed in order of importance (I use the computer-generated sticky notes so I never lose them!). Upon sitting down, check your list, your calendar, and organize your day. 

Take strategic breaks

Speaking of being reactive, it can be difficult to remain cool and collected when you're under a lot of pressure and have tons going on. And let's be real, unless you work in an ER or a place of equal importance, there's no reason to get super worked up over deadlines and workload. When the emails are piling in, phone is ringing off the hook and you're ready to snap, just take a 10-15 minute break to walk around the block, grab a snack or call your mom and say hi - you'll be better off for it!

Be healthy

You don't need to spend a fortune on probiotic quinoa kale mash or whatever, but do try to make smart food choices - it's literally the fuel we run on. You also don't have to dedicate hours and hours to spin class - in fact, physically exhausting yourself is not a good thing. I learned this last week after I threw my neck out CHANGING MY SHIRT a few days after taking a really hardcore bootcamp class. Looking back, such a high-intensity workout was extremely counterproductive and definitely triggered an injury. I needed to be rejuvenated, not beat the fuck up and out of commission for a week.Lesson learned.

Make time for friends

I'm a yes person. Sometimes my boyfriend will ask me outrageous questions (hey we have two hours to kill - want to go kayaking in the Hudson and train to Flushing Chinatown for lunch?) just to get a kick out of me saying "sure!" sans any hesitation. This trait has scored me some really fun times in life, but it gets exhausting and works against me sometimes. I'm learning (slowly) to choose plans thoughtfully without feeling guilty and plan ahead to make sure I get quality time with friends I love to see.

End your day on a positive note. On all days, but especially busy ones, it's important to turn off the lights and ease into bed, rather than crash into it. For even just TEN minutes before going to sleep, turn all electronics off, light a candle, and read a little something, listen to something inspiring, or nom on some chocolate. Whatever it is, enjoy it!

 

What's it Cost? Living in a Studio Apt in NYC

In most other places in America, asking someone how much they pay in rent would be considered a cringe-worthy social faux-pas, to say the least. 

In New York, though, it's about as common as asking someone how their day went. With millions of strangers living quite literally atop one another, we tend to both commiserate and celebrate over some otherwise-intimate details regarding one another's lives.

For outsiders and newcomers, however, it can be awfully difficult to pin down all the numbers. That's why I'll be kicking off the new series "What's it Cost?" and delving into apartment living by the numbers. We'll start with studios and eventually move into 1 BRs, 2BRs, etc., giving readers the low down on everything from monthly rent, building and apartment descriptions and real-life money-saving tips.*

*NOTE: Each of the examples below have been provided by current New Yorkers. Do you live in a studio and want to add your information to the list? If so, please contact me and I'd be happy to add in your details anonymously!

The Upper East Side Studio

Age/Location/Occupation or Industry: 25/Upper East 70s/Medical Field

Monthly Rent: $1774 (year 1), $2000 (by year 3, due to price increase)

Utilities: $60-$100 per month for electricity/internet, $15 a month for unlimited laundry in the building

Apartment Description: First floor walk-up in a building of all studios, fully & newly renovated on a tree-lined street. Wooden floors, floor-to-ceiling windows, etc. The kitchen is separated from the rest of the apartment and has all new appliances. Bathroom is a really decent size for New York with glass doors and plenty of space for shelving. My studio faces the back courtyard of patios which is great as there's never much traffic noise - though residents street-side have to deal with the nearby hospitals, etc.

Roommate Situation: No roommates

How I Do It/Money Saving Tips: My only real tip on on how to save money in NYC is to make more of it. On top of my actual job, I also babysit weekly and freelance in fashion so I always make sure there's enough to spend when I want to go out and still save. 

The East Village Studio

Age/Location/Occupation or Industry: 24/East Village 12th St./Jewelry Design

Monthly Rent: $1500

Utilities: $160

Apartment Description: A large studio renovated and converted to 1 bedroom before we moved in, in a walk up brownstone. 1st floor, street side. Door that separates bedroom to small living space and 2 closets. 15 ft ceilings- good for storage and makes it seem bigger. 

Roommate Situation: I live with my boyfriend who works in insurance

How I Do It/Money Saving Tips: Well we got lucky, being friends with the owner of our building and we spilt the rent of course which is the BIGGEST help imaginable. We grocery shop at Trader Joes and cook more nights then going out to eat. Splitting everything makes it way more managable. 

The Murray Hill Studio

Age/Location/Occupation or Industry: 25/Murray hill 39th St./fashion

Monthly Rent $2350

Utilities: $150- $250

Apartment Description: A studio in a luxury high-rise building. It's a nice building with a 24/7 doorman, concierge and elevator, plus other great amenities like a full gym, huge pool and hot tub. The actual apartment is an L-shaped studio which makes the "bedroom" area feel separate from the living space - also, the kitchen is closed off from the rest of the apartment.

Roommate Situation: 1 Roommate ( boyfriend)

How I Do It/Money Saving Tips: My utilities are cable & internet & Electric. My bill tends to be very high during the summertime because I have the air blasting at all times (which is probably not necessary come to think of it, especially when I am not home). Electricity can be up to $250 a month. Our cable is also very high and Time Warner is probably the worst cable provider I have ever experienced. Unfortunately this is the only company my apartment allows! So, go with Verizon if you can & keep your air off when you're not home!

The Upper West Side Studio

Age/Location/Occupation or Industry: 25/Upper West 70s/Finance

Monthly Rent: $1550

Utilities: $110

Apartment Description: A studio in an old brownstone from the 1800s. It’s a walk-up on the second floor with no doorbell/intercom. While it’s only a miniscule 175 square feet, which probably sounds insane, the extra-high ceilings and bay window makes the place feel much more spacious. The bay window alone is 24 square feet which makes it feel like its own little nook. I have a fully functioning kitchen and bathroom - all older appliances, but they work. Getting creative with how you set your space up is so key. 

Roommate Situation: No roommates!

How I Do It/Money Saving Tips: My only utilities are cable & internet. Most NYC buildings cover water, sewage and heating. Luckily, mine covers electricity as well, as long as I don’t have an A.C. unit - which I don’t. Luckily, we’ve had a mild summer. Additionally, I always keep beer, wine and some sort of cocktail ingredients on hand. Having a friend or two over for weeknight drinks is a LOT more reasonable than going out for drinks 3-4 times a week.

 

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Is NYC Restaurant Week Worth it? Top 10 Picks for 20-somethings

As a 20-something living in Manhattan, I must admit: Restaurant Week is a little confusing. On the one hand, NYC is a foodie’s paradise and Restaurant Week – or, month, rather – is wonderful in that it takes some of the city’s finest culinary jewels and places them within reach of our own, otherwise-poor palates. On the other hand, though, it’s still an expense. For instance, I’ve only been out to lunch a handful of times during my 3 years in the city and not once have I spent $25 on it (Note: Restaurant Week’s 3-course Lunch is set at $25 while the 3-course dinner seating is $38).

Of course, my own experience isn’t reason to invalidate another’s. However, I think it’s safe to say that most New Yorkers between the ages of 20 and 30 would prefer to shell out $38 for a nice dinner with friends, rather than pay $25 for a lunch they never would have gone out for to begin with. Going out for dinner is simply more of a full  experience and – let’s also not forget – most of us have jobs Monday through Friday that act as a sort of obstacle in the way of enjoying that fine-dining luncheon, anyway.

So, while both Zagat and CBS have crafted their own recommendations, I wanted to create a separate list with recommendations catered specifically to the 20-something looking for that little bit extra bang-for-your-buck during restaurant week.

The Top-10 Restaurant Week Picks for 20-somethings is based off of the following criteria:

1)     The Restaurant Must Serve Dinner (3 courses - $38)

This knocked out a slew of favorites from other lists. It’s wonderful that Nobu is participating in restaurant week, but with only the lunch option available, it gets a swift kick off the list by little bro Nobu Next Door that does serve dinner.

2)     The Cuisine Must Be “Worth it”*

 French, Steak/Seafood, Upscale American New/Classic, Japanese

*Allow me to explain the exclusivity. I grew up in a part-Chinese household and spent a summer in China eating the most delectable, hand-crafted dim sum and $1 noodles you’ve ever tasted. So, while I am sure Midtown’s Hakkasan is delicious, it’s difficult for me to justify spending too much money on basic, over-priced ingredients for a cuisine that is meant to be enjoyed family-style on the cheap. Same goes for Mexican fare and soul food. Don’t get me wrong, here. I understand that fusion restaurants are all the rage and that the quality and innovative nature of these cuisines is absolutely growing. However, to me, the beauty of these foods lies in their historic comfort, simplicity and casual enjoyment while the beauty of restaurant week is to enjoy something a little more special.

For this reason, other restaurants, we had to chop you.

3)     The Ratings & Atmosphere Must Be Just Right

All 10 restaurants on the list have something unique about them. Whether the perfect setting for a corporate celebration or a romantic speakeasy from the 1920s, each restaurant encapsulates a uniquely New York atmosphere and has been tried and tested by the pros. While anything over a 20 on Zagat is a solid score, I aimed strictly for 23+ food ratings and then personally took pulse on the ambiance.

 Top 10 Restaurant Week Recommendations for 20-somethings

Bar Boulud – French – 24 Zagat – Upper West Side – Sophisticated Casual

Lure Fishbar – Seafood – 23 Zagat – SoHo – Classic/Nautical

Le Cirque – French – 25 Zagat – Midtown - Posh

21 Club – Classic American – 23 Zagat – Midtown – Historic Speakeasy

Nobu Next Door – Japanese Peruvian – 27 Zagat – Tribeca - Iconic

Perry Street,– New American – 26 Zagat – West Village – Chic/Modern

Po –New American 25 Zagat – West Village – Charming/Cozy Romantic

The Sea Grill – Seafood -23 Zagat– Rock Center – Special Occasion

Perilla – New American – 26 Zagat – West Village – Polished/Intimate

The Capital Grille – Steakhouse – 24 Zagat – Multiple Locations – Corporate/Celebratory

Bonus Recs:

Butter – Seafood/Steak American – Not Yet Rated – Midtown – Stylish/Romantic

Fig & Olive – Mediterranean – 21 Zagat – Multiple Locations – Chic/Trendy

How I moved in Manhattan for $250

(Scroll to bottom for move details/pricing)

Let’s get one thing straight, here. If you have friends and you want to keep them, you will absolutely not ask them to help you move within the city. It is a completely irrational request and reserved strictly for those moving into the city for the very first time.

No one wants to spend one of their precious weekend days lugging someone else’s stupid 50-pound coffee table halfway across Manhattan.

No, not even if it’s from Crate & Barrel – I promise you.

And so, enter the delightfully vague world of movers. I could pretend as if I did a whole bunch of research that led me to a making an educated decision on which mover to choose, but truth be told, I just went with some sketchy Chinatown moving company run by a guy and his cell-phone that a coworker recommended. 

This is what showed up.

Every now and then, I take a walk on the wild side.

But the risk turned out to be not so much of a risk at all. After a quick Google search, I learned that the company, Sanho, even had Yelp page.

Ipso Facto, they’re legit.

And, they turned out to be legit. Well, for the most part. They were 2 hours late and while the movers were very sweet and swift (the entire process took 2.5 hours once it actually started), the driver was kind of a d-bag.

All-in-all, it was a tad bit G-hetto.

I also think it was illegal that they transported me across Manhattan in the front seat between them, sans a seatbelt, but let’s not get our feathers ruffled over spilt milk. Or whatever.

BUT FIRST...

BUT FIRST...

Point is: New York is a massive place with more resources and options than you could ever compare. Sometimes going for the lesser-known name or off of a recommendation from a trusted friend is the best option out there.

But in case you were reading this in hopes of more beneficial information (and, honestly, whose fault is that?), I’ve listed some more insightful resources below:

How to choose your company:

http://www.timeout.com/newyork/style-design/best-nyc-moving-companies

To Review the company you choose:

 http://www.mymovingreviews.com/move/new-york-city-moving-guide

How to negotiate pricing: http://brickunderground.com/blog/2012/10/negotiating_your_way_to_a_better_price_for_moving

Full Disclosure: I ended up paying $250 all-inclusive (even tip!) to move from Murray Hill to the Upper West Side (30 blocks up & a miserable 9 avenues over). The move was from a door man building with an elevator to a walk-up in a brownstone and included a bed & frame, 6 boxes, an ottoman, 2 small dressers, a bedside table, a light lamp and a suitcase.

 

Best Summer '14 Tunes!

It must be said that nothing can encompass summertime quite like music can. There is always that one song, or often collection of songs, that can immediately transport you to a certain summer with a certain someone or something that you just couldn't get enough of - music is special that way. It deepens the imprints of our most poignant memories and plays them to a personalized soundtrack. 

Below are a few of my favorite songs of this summer, along with a few recommendations from my buddy and music twin, Tyler, who has always had an eye and an ear for what's wonderful. 

Vacationer - "The Wild Life"

There's a reason the band's name is Vacationer. Listening to this song makes you feel like it's the first day of summer every time... Perfect to kick off a care-free roadtrip to the beach.

Vance Joy - "Riptide"

I SWOON for James Keogh's voice and sentimental-yet-upbeat melodies. It gives me the feeling of having nostalgia for the present, which I once wrote about here. Especially fitting for late night beers around a fire pit with friends and family.

Bleachers - "I Wanna Get Better"

This song is pure fun wrapped up in some solid lyrics. PLUS, a decent music video for once! Very refreshing.

Cherub - "Doses & Mimosas"

A whimsical sound that lies somewhere between Blood Orange and Twin Shadow and may just be the most wonderful day-drinking-with-your-best-friends-from-college-song.

A-Trak and Cam'ron - "Dipsh*t"

Because, duh. Sounds like something I would have listened to school sophomore year (perhaps Nelly's Heart of the Champion?) whilst speeding out of the high school parking lot after school. And I fucking dig it.

Kiesza - "Hideaway"

Finally, a new-age Janet Jackson meets Tegan & Sara in this phenomenal song that I've strangely only heard on Canadian radio so far even though the entire music takes place in what I assume to be Brooklyn. It's like the 90s grunge scene meets 80s house meets some serious choreography. 

Spoon - "Do You"

'cause you can't go wrong ending it with a Spoon Song.